As soon as we approached the marina at St. Thomas, I could see his face turning red.
“Do you see this, Laura Lee?”
“Yes, I do, Max.”
“Things are changing. I used to love this little marina. Now, it’s always under construction and overcrowded with boats in every little space. It won’t be long before we don’t have a dock for our sailboat. I can recall when we’d be the eye candy for all who loved a beautiful sailboat. Now, we can barely navigate around these obstacles.”
“Max, lookout. There’s a cruise ship coming; starboard side.”
I was tired from dancing the night before we arrived at Aruba.
After a quick shower, we went for breakfast and the nectar of the gods; coffee.
The ship would dock for 6 hours. We didn’t know how long it would take to get around the island. We needed to find the National History Museum of Aruba.
It was a small island but very busy. Cars darted by as we walked the four city streets to the museum.
It was hot and windy. The balmy breezes cooled the heat tremendously. Willie had talked about the trade wind currents of the island.
At last, we arrived. It was a small museum dedicated to the people’s history and the slaves who were imprisoned on the island.
Willie arrived in Aruba when he was commissioned to do a mural for the summer home of one of his art collectors. In the six months it took him to complete the outdoor patio wall, he grew to love the island. He purchased a home, and so began his Aruban lifestyle.
Being from New York, he wasn’t sure if he’d feel a part of the island. Slowly he began to feel comfortable with the islanders and island life. He felt part of his community.
A gallery owner had an exhibition for him within a few months of residing on the island.
Restaurant owners noticed his artwork at the exhibit. A few asked if he would barter for meals. Banks, libraries, and town buildings donned his artwork on their walls. He received a commission to do the illustrations for the Aruban History book. Life was good.
After a few years, when his health began to falter, he flew to the states to get checked at the veteran’s hospital. He had been an illustrator during the Vietnam war. He drew battle images while in the fields. He told stories of the frightening danger around him and how his lungs burned from the chemicals of agent orange spraying.
He never returned to his beloved Aruba. He died barely six months after returning to the states. His time had run out.
*****William De La Vega was my husbands 1st cousin. His entire childhood was spent drawing, painting and sketching a variety of artwork. He traveled the United States and Europe, painting his way through life. He never married or had children. He never settled down until he arrived in Aruba. Art was his life … sadly, he ran out of time at age 38 in 1977.
Talia was stunned when she saw how well the sunflowers had grown. It had been a few weeks since she visited the house her grandmother had left her when she died.
Trying to fix the house and move in was too painful right now. She kept telling her mother, “One day, Mom, one day.”
As a little child, she watched her grandmother, Mariana, cook traditional Italian meals while recounting tales of her journey to this new land she would be calling home.
She told Talia, “We traveled by boat for weeks on a crowded ship. Many hungry immigrants had few belongings. The small number of sunflower seeds she brought to eat was almost gone by the time they arrived.
Mariana was bewildered by the new language, new customs, and their style of clothing.
She planted the leftover sunflower seeds from her journey to remember the home she had left behind.
They grew tall and massive compared to the ones in Italy.
Talia never forgot her grandmother’s love of sunflowers.
She remembered her smile was as big as a sunflower.
When the ship docked, we disembarked and signaled the cab that would be taking us to the pyramids.
It was a two-hour ride to Chichen Itza, the Temple of the Kukulcan, the archeological site.
Our friends had advised us to skip the costly ships tour and opt for a cab instead. We would be there with the same people we had been sailing with but for less money. Herbert was frugal about spending money, he thought it was a good idea.
The driver, who spoke little English, took us down unexpected bumpy unpaved roads. We barely spoke more than a few sentences in Spanish.
He said he had driven to Chichen Itza many times. We had our doubts. It was 2 1/2 hours since we departed the pier. Oh my, would the headlines read:
“Lost tourists, eaten by wild animals at dusk.”
Eventually, our driver seemed less confident about where he was going. He thought he had made a wrong turn. I guess that’s why the road was unpaved.
Frustrated, he found a road that led to his home. It was an old wooden shack in dire need of repair, and you might say dilapidated.
Although fearful, we exited the car and met his mother, sister, and brother-in-law. They welcomed us with huge smiles. Their children played on dirt floors while a baby slept in a hammock. They insisted we sit and eat something.
It was a pleasant visit. We learned a lot about their Mayan customs and cultural traditions.
We never made it to the pyramids. But, we arrived back at our ship with more knowledge about the Mayan people than we would have on a pricier tour.
Sometimes, a mishap can turn into a beautiful experience.